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Interview with Gary J. Tunnicliffe, writer and director of Hellraiser: Judgement
By James Whittington, Saturday 20th February 2021
Gary J. Tunnicliffe doing SFX make-up on the set of Hellraiser Judgement

Director and long-time Hellraiser franchise SFX artist Gary John Tunnicliffe has a new entry into the Hellraiser series for us all to enjoy, Hellraiser: Judgement. Here he chats about this gritty horror.

HC: Was there one person or film which inspired you to want to be in the effects industry?

GJT: I can't remember one film that directly inspired me to be in the effects industry, it would definitely have been around 1982 (when I was 14) when The Thing AND American Werewolf in London came out (as well as a mass of FX laden movies) but more than anything it was when someone showed me a copy of Fangoria magazine, it was THAT, that influenced me to become a make-up effects artists when I saw pictures of people actually creating monsters and effects and realized it was a legitimate profession.

HC: You've been long established as one of the leading people in special effects make-up, can you recall the first time you walked onto a set?

GJT: It was probably for a commercial at Pinewood studios, I was working for Bob Keen at Image Animation and I think I was literally just bringing some pieces in for the other 'on set' people, I just remember it being dark, an Aladdin's cave and there was this mass of people all seemingly busy with tasks and I couldn't fathom how all these people were involved or what they were doing.

HC: When did you start getting the feel for wanting to be a director?

GJT: To be honest I didn't have the 'feel' for wanting to be a director until someone asked me 'Would you be interested in directing' and foolishly, arrogantly and without much knowledge of the entire process I said yes, to be honest that first film really was my film school and I owe a debt of gratitude to my first DP (Adam Kane) AD (James Deck) and Script Supervisor (Jennifer Gettzinger) (as well as the rest of the crew except ONE of the producers) for supporting me and getting me through the technical stuff I was 'green' about.

HC: You've been around the Hellraiser franchise for quite some time, were you a big fan before you worked on it?

GJT: I was huge fan of Hellraiser, I sat in a movie theatre in Cannock, England in 1987 watched the movie mesmerized and when I saw Pinhead I said to myself - that's awesome, who did that, how did they do that and I WANT to do that!

HC: Let's talk about Hellraiser: Judgement, how did you come to be writing the script and directing this?

GJT: I was originally offered to write and direct Hellraiser Revelations, which (due to a conflict working on Scream 4) I could not do, I wrote the initial script for Revelations which was then altered and Directed by Victor Garcia. When another Hellraiser move came to be made they graciously once again asked me if I'd be interested in writing and directing and of course I said yes.

HC: It's a very gritty, violent and bloody film, with shades of "Se7en" mixed into its fantastical storyline, was this a deliberate choice to take it away from what we'd expect it to be like?

GJT: I don't REALLY know what people would 'expect' it to be like, the films have been a mixed bag of influences and tones over the years, some good, some bad and let's face it some awful. I had to write a film to a budget ($350k) so my options were fairly limited, I wrote what I thought I could do well with limited time and money but at the same time I didn't see the point in just 'retreading' what had been done before especially with less money. Dimension didn't want a twisted love story exploring the sexuality of Hellraiser (unfortunately) so I went with a cop story and a serial killer (since you can't spend 90 minutes with the Cenobites - no matter how much people may think they want that) and I decided to bring in a new faction with a an 'intimate' process that would be disturbing but cost effective and if you're doing a serial killer movie crossed with Hellraiser, Se7en seems the obvious influence!

HC: Was it all shot on location as the street shots add so much atmosphere to the piece?

GJT: YES! all shot in and around Oklahoma City with fantastic cooperation of all there for our micro budget endeavour, chilly February temperatures and a giant smoke machine helped provide the atmosphere (laughs).

HC: The Auditor is such a great character, do you think he should have his own series, and would you continue to play him?

GJT: He should have his own series, his own reality show, his own line of men's cologne and he'd make a great breakfast time host and celebrity chef and me and only me should ever play him (laughs).

HC: There are some incredible effects, do you have a favourite moment?

GJT: Actually I don't really think there are any particularly stunning effects in the film, its stuff that I've done before and in some cases more elaborately and better, there are effects I would like to have spent more on (money and time) like the skinning of Watkins - but everything in the film is done well and Pinhead and the Cenobites etc all look great and that's kudos to a great team on set - I do think that considering the elements ( a stuffed toy and a bit of a silicon stomach section, intercut with a real stomach with a prosthetic and a puppy with some water on it) the 'dog from the stomach' gag works surprisingly well - a testimony to good editing!

HC: How hard is it to design new Cenobites?

GJT: New Cenobites are GREAT fun to design and ideas come from the strangest of places, the influence for the Angelique Cenobite in part 4 came from watching Sister Act! - the trick is to design something that is both grotesque and beautiful, violent but with order.

HC: Would you like to continue the franchise?

GJT: I would love to, I have been involved (professionally) with these films since 1993 and as a fan long before, but alas I think my tenure is over, I don't think I'll be invited to the party any more, but I am thrilled I got to do Judgment and put my own personal stamp on the franchise.

HC: You're a man of many talents, do you have a favourite skill or job?

GJT: That's very kind of you, well certainly NOT make up, I gotta say I really don't mind if I never apply a make-up ever again, did you ever do something SO much until you hate it?...yep, that's prosthetic make up and me. I genuinely enjoy directing, especially seeing something dark, bizarre and strange that you wrote or imagined bought to life in front of you. Acting terrifies me, but I enjoy the process and then hate seeing the results.

HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?

GJT: I'm signed on the direct COULROPHOBIA (fear of clowns) which I also co-wrote which is an intense horror film experience with the antagonists in the form of four clowns (great fun designing these) hopefully shooting later this year - I'm also working on several other writing projects BUT I am also still possibly doing effects for some old friends as well (I don't mind picking up a brush and doing effects for the right people) and in my spare time I do personal art projects, rock hound and tumble, train and fight and drink Guinness.

HC: Gary J. Tunnicliffe, thank you very much.

Hellraiser: Judgment and Hellraiser: Revelations are on Digital 22 February and Blu-ray/DVD 1 March.


Related show tags: HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II, HELLRAISER, HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH
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